Was this feedback useful? Examining the observation and feedback process for pre-service teachers

June 2020

Source: Teaching Education, 31:2, 144-161

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to examine the teacher intern’s perception, understanding, and experience of the observation and feedback process conducted as a part of their internship experience.
Within this context, researchers anticipated using the study results to fulfill their commitment of improving teaching and learning practices as well the potential for improving the observation process.

The research focused on two questions:
(1) What is the lived experience of pre-service teachers (interns) observed over the course of one undergraduate semester?
(2) How do pre-service teachers (interns) understand and perceive the nature of the observation process and the feedback cycle over the course of one undergraduate semester?

This study sought to examine the perceptions and understanding of interns in their internship placement, a perspective not previously examined at the institution.
Given the subjective nature of perception, the research team determined that a qualitative methodology would best suit the research inquiry (Creswell, 2012).
The emphasis on lived experiences and perceptions warranted a phenomenological perspective to examining and collecting data (Nakayama, 1994).

The research team was made up of six doctoral students serving as university coordinators (UCs) and a supervising faculty member.
The researchers were assigned to supervise a total of six undergraduate pre-service teacher interns (hereafter referred to as interns), all seeking initial teacher licensure during their senior student teaching internship. All participating interns were placed in elementary school settings, and intern’s specific classroom placements ranged from self-contained classrooms to support facilitators, which was defined by schools as teachers who move from classroom to classroom to provide in-class support for students with special needs.

Data collection techniques
The researchers conducted two separate interviews; the first semi-structured interview provided the researchers with background information about the participants, established rapport, and informed future questions for the second round of interviews.
The second interview was structured and consisted of six questions grounded in the relevant research and developed by the research team prior to the data collection as well as an additional six questions based on data gleaned from the first interview.
The latter six questions were developed to probe for further information regarding the observations process.
UCs and participants then met a third time to conduct member checking. UCs shared the participant responses and subsequent themes and participants were encouraged to provide feedback if they believed the themes inappropriate.

Findings and discussion
This exploratory research study investigated the lived experiences of undergraduate preservice special education teacher interns seeking initial teacher licensure observed over the course of one semester, including their understandings and perceptions of the nature of being observed and receiving feedback.
Additionally, researchers examined how those experiences could inform future observation practices as well as inform policies related to the internship observation process.
The research concluded that most interns were satisfied with the level of support that their UC provided.

Identified strengths within the observation process noted by interns included duplication of supervision, with both the supervising teacher and UC providing overlapping resources, supervision, and support. Constructive criticism was recognized as a defining strength within the observation process.
Weaknesses within the student teaching experience included a lack of community support for interns.
Several interns noted feeling isolated from their peers during their internship experiences.
Through the interview process, interns expressed that a voluntary, informal space be established in order to provide a venue for interns to reflect and communicate with one another as they navigated the capstone experience.
While the participating institution of higher education did not provide this space, several mechanisms in place at other institutions can address this concern.
The institution might consider pairing the student teaching experience with a one-credit practicum course, a seminar style class held weekly for students with the objective of discussing high leverage practices within the field (McLeskey et al., 2017) and current challenges in the classroom.
Establishing a venue for communication and collaboration with peers and UCs beyond the internship experience should strongly be considered and studied for impact on longevity in the field.
A significant theme that emerged from interviews was the surprise from interns that UCs holding evaluator roles were actually students themselves. Interns revealed that they initially had a level of discomfort toward UCs, as they did not perceive doctoral students to hold the same level of knowledge or experience as university faculty or professionals in the field of special education.
While interns believed that they were well matched with their UCs, they recommended that advance notice be given that identified the university coordinator as a doctoral student and not the instructor of record for the student teaching course.
Often institutions prefer that faculty candidates have supervision experience before taking on the responsibility when initially hired as faculty.
Thus, many institutions have traditionally encouraged doctoral students take on the role of internship supervisor to provide them with the highly sought-after experience.
This study demonstrates a need for transparency in that process.
Given the interns satisfaction with the feedback provided by the UC, it is recommended that interns and UC spend additional time getting to know one another as professionals prior to the observation cycle commencing to include the receipt of a UC’s biography by the intern for review.
Beginning teachers who completed the internship process during this study indicated that feedback and collaboration with UCs were valuable for their success in the classroom, and they reported that receiving quality mentoring would be one of the primary reasons they would remain in the field, data which supports previous research on mentorship (American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, 2018; Stanulis et al., 2007)
In conclusion, the findings of this study yielded themes that may serve as a guide for teacher preparation programs that place, observe, and provide feedback to interns over the course of their internship experience.
The results extend the knowledge base regarding quality capstone internship experiences (AACTE, 2018; Boyer, 1990; Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998).
In addition, the study results add to our understanding of effective mentorship, a key component of the capstone internship experience.

American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, (2018). A pivot toward clinical practice, its lexicon, and the renewal of educator preparation. A report of the AACTE Clinical Practice Commission.
Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University. (1998). Reinventing undergraduate education: A blueprint for America’s research universities. Retrieved from http:// eric.ed.gov/?id=ED424840
Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: The priorities of the professorate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed. ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Prentice Hall
McLeskey, J., Barringer, M. D., Billingsley, B., Brownell, M., Jackson, D., Kennedy, M., . . . Ziegler, D. (2017). High leverage practices in special education. In Council for exceptional children & CEEDAR center. Arlington, VA
Nakayama, Y. (1994). “Phenomenology” and qualitative research methods. Seiroka Kango Daigaku Kiyo, 20, 22–34.
Stanulis, R. N., Burrill, G., & Ames, K. T. (2007). Fitting in and learning to teach: Tensions in developing a vision for a university-based induction program for beginning teachers. Teacher Education Quarterly, 34(3), 135–147 

Updated: Sep. 21, 2020